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Singer-songwriter Coles Whalen originally planned to release her third full-length, I Wrote This for You, last November, but while the CDs were in production, she listened to a copy of the master and realized that there were four up-tempo rocking country songs that she didn't want on the album.
"I was like, 'I do not love these songs,'" Whalen says. "So we stopped the press of the record and we canceled the CD release. We went back to Nashville, and we took those songs off and put four other songs on instead. I just decided that if I'm going to put this out and actually own it and feel good about it that I want to like every song on there. I really want to feel good about it."
Although Whalen's last album, The Whistle Stop Road Record, was steeped in up-tempo country, I Wrote This for You is more a toned-down personal affair. "I decided to take a step back and make some of the music I like to write and play and sing, and put it all on a record together," she says. "So I ended up without an up-tempo song on there."
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Whalen admits that she's comfortable singing up-tempo country; it's how she gets the bars going during shows. With I Wrote This for You, though, she was trying to be as honest as possible, and she feels more connected with each song. Here she's pulling from personal experience, whereas with Whistle Stop, that wasn't necessarily the case. Whalen says the songs on the new album span about two and a half years of her life; each song, she reveals, was written for a person, but not the same person. She wrote one song, "Average 20 Something," to herself.
I Wrote This for You marks Whalen's first record on which every song was co-written with other songwriters, many of them based in Nashville. She visits that city once a month to work with folks like Rob Crosby, who's penned songs for country stars like Martina McBride and Lee Greenwood and who co-wrote two tracks on I Wrote This for You.
Whalen has teamed up with Crosby on songs for other artists, in addition to her own collaborations. Since winning Akon's HITLAB showcase in 2009, she's been in touch with the rapper and co-wrote the ballad "You'll Be There" with him. "It's really cool to have a song with him on there," she says, "because obviously, that's outside his genre."
Whalen's new album is also the first release on her own label, Wrecking Ball, which she started with her bassist, Kim O'Hara, about a year ago. "I think it took me all the way until now to really realize, even though I've been saying it for a long time, that I could pretty much do it on my own," she concludes. "It's hard when you've been in L.A. and you've been in Nashville and you've been around the people who are supported by the machine for a long time — it's hard to actually say, 'Okay, I'm going to take the website in. I'm going to take product shipping in. I'm going to do my own tour booking. I'm going to do everything.'"